Wall St. Hopes You Won't Give to Donna Edwards' Money Bomb

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Credit: Edwards Campaign FB

Donna Edwards has been an active and effective part of the progressive community for decades, and one of the most effective and steadfast progressive leaders inside Congress for a progressive agenda that advances the legitimate aspirations of working families. Her opponent in the race for Maryland's open Senate seat, Chris Van Hollen, is another cog in the machine that Thomas Frank was writing about when he lamented to Thom Harmann that the Democratic Party has been turning its back on working families to cater to the special corporate interests, Wall Street and the Top 10%. In 22 days early voting begins for the April 26 primary election.

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The financial forces behind the establishment have lined up behind Van Hollen and have bloated his campaign chest. As of the December 31 FEC filing report he had already amassed $6,295,124. Donna's grassroots campaign has brought in $2,166,226. Van Hollen has already outspent her two to one but she leads in the polls by as much as 10%. Unfortunately, Wall Street and other corporate special interests have rushed to his side and he now has ten times more money on hand than she does and plans to swamp the airwaves with more false attack ads she will be unable to respond to.

Schumer has made sure the Financial Sector was aboard Van Hollen's train and it has stepped up to the tune of $390,807 so far, in gratitude to the Ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee who always made sure the banksters' priorities were covered. Although he is trying to wiggle out of his reactionary positions for the primary, Van Hollen has supported the job-killing trade policies that have devastated American manufacturing and has advocated "saving" Social Security by cutting benefits, the kind of "saving" Paul Ryan and the Republicans advocate under the guise of "compromise."

Last May, the New York Times recognized the Maryland race as "a fight over the future of the Democratic Party... a fight over what a true Democrat should, and should not, be."

Although our top reason for backing Donna is about electing a proven and effective progressive fighter, we're cognizant that if she wins she'll make history as the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Maryland-- and only the second black woman in the history of the Senate.

The fact that she's taken a pledge to not take a dime from the Wall Street banks; has led the fight against the TPP; has been a strong defender of Planned Parenthood and a woman's right to choose; a leader on equality; and is fighting for every family-- regardless of zip code, has led Blue America to endorse her and to ask you to chip into her money bomb this week.

She's shown that she's not afraid to lead on issues we care about: Medicare for all, marriage equality-- she was the first member of Congress in Maryland to publicly endorse the idea, far before it was a "safe" position for establishment Democrats-- and she actually took a stand against her own party's Republican-like gerrymandering.

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It's important to remember that Donna’s personal experience is tied to being an African-American single mom who founded the National Network to End Domestic Violence, fought developers in her neighborhood, and won her first race for Congress against a corrupt Democrat bought by special interests. That informs her policy positions and, in a Congress dominated by well-off white males, it matters. We backed her in every race she's ever run and America-- and an increasingly off-the-rails Democratic Party-- need her voice at the table in Washington.



We CAN Have A Better Congress-- And We Need To

Click the image to view Marianne Williamson previewing our Free Progressive Summit.

If yesterday's results are indicative of what it expect in November, it looks like Americans will be, once again, asked to choose between 2 really awful nominees... another less-of-two-evils election that is sure to turn off millions of Americans and hold down voter turnout. Who the hell-- other than what Trumpf calls his beloved "poorly educated"-- voters wants to be culpable for the kind of endemic corruption that would be at the heart of either a Trumpf or a Clinton Administration? Is he so much more than she is? Sure. She's the lesser of two evils, evil, but the lesser evil. Does that inspire you?

If you've been participating in the candidates progressive summit at SisterGiant.com, you've had a chance to meet candidates for the House and Senate who are not the lesser of two evils by any stretch of the imagination. Blue America and Marianne Williamson's organization have put together an on-going forum in which participants meet the stalwart progressive public servants.

Tuesday there were live interviews with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-MD), a state legislator with a record of accomplishment and a vision for America going forward; and Mayor John Fetterman, the alternative candidate in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Before that-- and still archived, of course-- were sessions with Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin-- whose video below I highly recommend-- Tim Canova, the intrepid and courageous progressive in South Florida taking on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the embodiment of the heart of darkness; Nanette Barragán, a small town mayor who took on Bill Oil and beat them and is now taking on the whole corrupt Democratic Establishment in Sacramento to keep a South Bay L.A. congressional seat out of the hands of the toxic special interests; Mayor Bao Nguyen, who, when elected from his Orange County district, will likely be the most progressive Member of Congress since 1950, when Vito Marcantonio left Congress; Washington state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, who has learned how to successfully build consensus around progressive values even in a legislature controlled by Republicans; Madison-based Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), the member of Congress with the strongest voting record of all; Alex Law, a millennial candidate willing to take on South Jersey's venal and corrupt Norcross Machine; DuWayne Gregory, the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature going up against entrenched neocon and Republican Peter King on Long Island; and fiery and dedicated Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL), who has put his foot down against Wall Street's attempt to replace Marco Rubio in the Senate with another of their puppets.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.32.00 PM.pngClick image to see Jamie Raskin's great new video.

Last night in session 5, Marianne presented 3 progressive challengers to 3 Republican incumbents: Tom Fiegan, who is taking on Iowa obstructionist Chuck Grassely, the Senator and haughty Judiciary Committee chairman who has declared that there will be no hearings for whomever President Obama nominates for the empty Supreme Court seat; Paul Clements, an environmental activist taking on multimillionaire scion of a Michigan family that enriched itself by moving tens of thousands of jobs to Mexico and China, Fred Upton; and Angela Marx, a Washington state grassroots activist challenging GOP tool Jaime Herrera Buetler.

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 11.37.42 AM.pngWasserman Schultz and Murphy-- you don't get any worse than this.

If you don't vote in primaries, and “off years” you wind up with corrupt faux-Democrats like Patrick Murphy and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, two "New Dems" who are sponsoring a bill with the Republicans on behalf of the pay day lenders that would further debilitate Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Zach Carter reported yesterday that "as the CFPB has moved closer to adopting new rules to shield families from predatory lending, the GOP has assailed the agency from every conceivable angle-- going after it's budget, attempting to tie its hands with new layers of red tape, fomenting conspiracy theories about rogue regulators illegally shutting down businesses and launching direct attacks on payday loan rules themselves." Now they have a handful of on-the-take, Wall Street Democrats-- Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (New Dem-FL), Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Alcee Hastings (FL), David Scott (Blue Dog-GA), Henry Cuellar (Blue Dog-TX) and Lois Frankel (FL)-- working with them against protecting the public.

Wassermann Schultz's support for the right-wing Republican position, he points out, "undercuts efforts by liberals in Congress to draw contrasts with Republicans on economic issues." That's the special role Wasserman Schultz and, even more so, Patrick Murphy and Kyrsten Sinema always take on. Wassermann Schultz has been walking around the floor of the House trying to sweet talk other Democrats onto signing on, lying to them about a bill she helped write when she was in the Florida state legislature for which she has been handsomely paid off by the pay day lending industry, calling her bill a "model" for the industry. Every single consumer group has lined up against Wasserman Schultz's attempt to derail the CFPB's work in this area, especially consumer groups that seek to protect the minority communities the Republicans, Wasserman Schultz and Murphy are targeting as easy rip-off victims.

The Consumer Federation of America, the NAACP, The National Consumer Law Center, The National Council of La Raza, The Southern Poverty Law Center and hundreds of others wrote a letter to every member of Congress in December urging them to oppose the legislation.

"The problem here is that Florida's law is a sham," says Gynnie Robnett, director of the Campaign to Stop the Debt Trap at Americans for Financial Reform. "It was backed by the industry."

And by "the industry," they're including the crooked Members of Congress-- Republicans and rogue Democrats like Wasserman Schultz and Murphy-- who sell their services to the pay day lenders. Democrats have an opportunity to replace these corrupt conservative Democrats in primaries. Wassermann Schultz's opponent this cycle is Tim Canova and Murphy's is the indomitable Alan Grayson, both of whom are part of the Progressive Summit we talked about up top.

By the way, Congress writes the laws to explicitly exclude their own behavior from prosecution as bribery... even when the quid pro quo is as blatant as Wasserman Schultz's is-- not that she isn't completely typical of all the corrupt conservatives in Congress. Happy payday lenders have given her $68,000 in legalistic bribes since 2006, including $5,100 so far in 2016. She belongs in prison, not in Congress. Last night most Republican primary voters gave a big middle finger to their party's corrupt establishment. Last night most Democratic primary voters gave a big wet kiss to their party's corrupt establishment.

This is exactly the kind of issue that incenses Canova, who emphasized to Democrats in Broward County that "loan sharks should feel right at home in the party of Donald Trump, but con artists should have no place in the Democratic Party. Yesterday, he told his supporters that "predatory payday lenders stepped in to profit during the financial crisis. They targeted poor communities-- and people without access to credit from banks-- by offering them short-term loans at sky high interest rates. On an annual basis, these companies charge late fees and rates as high as 300 to 400% and many companies have even charged up 1,900% interest on loans, which is obscene. Worse, they target people-- particularly people of color-- who are unable to pay the loan back. If they fall behind, they are offered another payday loan to help cover the cost of the prior payday loan, with fees and percentages get higher and higher, trapping them in an process that never ends.

dark.pngClick the thermometer to help elect the Progressive Congress we need and deserve.
I have pushed for regulation of payday loan companies my entire career as a law professor and political activist. I worked with Senator Bernie Sanders and his staff on provisions in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act of 2010, and I was heartened when Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to do just that-- to provide some basic minimum standards in payday loans to prevent the poorest and most vulnerable among us from getting ripped off and trapped in a downward cycle of debt. This is a reform that has been championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren and supported by President Obama. So why, then, is my opponent-- Debbie Wasserman Schultz-- introducing legislation in Congress to deregulate an industry that is already profiting from ripping off millions of Americans? Why is she fighting against Elizabeth Warren and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, who are attempting to protect our neighbors from the worst abuses by payday lenders? The answer is simple: Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been taking millions of dollars from the same corporate interests that profit from payday loans. She recently reversed President Obama’s long-standing ban on corporate lobbyist donations to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), opening the door to influence peddling by the payday loan industry. Not only is Wasserman Schultz carrying water for an industry that is actively defrauding poor communities out of millions of dollars-- one company recently was forced to give $19 million dollars back to customers in illegal overcharge payments-- but she is actively convincing Democrats in Congress to do so as well. Which party does she lead again?

Today (Thursday) Marianne will sit down for sessions with Lou Vince (CA-25), Pat Murphy (IA-01) and Diana Hird (NY-18), each of whom is being opposed by the DCCC and the DC Establishment Democrats— and each of whom has to fight off a challenge from a Republican-lite fake Democrat before going to battle against the real Republican. Please check out all the sessions here and please consider contributing to the candidates who most appeal to you here.

And, one more thing... in Ohio, the Democratic Establishment has a tired old conservative candidate, Ted Strickland, running against progressive Cincinnati Councilman PG Sittenfeld. The winner of their March 15 primary gets to take on right-wing Republican and Trumpf-defender Rob Portman. Sittenfeld can beat him; Strickland will get slaughtered. Since Strickland is too scared to publicly debate, please watch the video below at the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Editorial Board endorsement interview. (This week the Plain Dealer endorsed Sittenfeld, pointing out that his "dynamism would give Portman a real race, the kind Ohio voters deserve.")



Women Have Come A Long Way-- Still Plenty Of Work to Be Done


In 1968 Phillip Morris launched a brand and marketing campaign targeting women... for death-- Virginia Slims: "You've come a long way, baby," which later morphed into "It's a woman thing." Women HAVE come a long way since then, a very, very long way. And women have more real economic and political power now than ever in recorded history.

When a clown like Jeb Bush comes out and declares, in public, that unwed mothers should be publicly shamed, women count that against him. He's still collecting tens of millions of dollars from fat-cats who want to see him get into the White House but to women voters... he's dead, and his campaign is floundering and moribund. Bush: "Infamous shotgun weddings and Nathaniel Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter are reminders that public condemnation of irresponsible sexual behavior has strong historical roots."

Last week Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, penned an OpEd for The Hill focusing on Scott Walker's own personal war against women. Walker, they wrote, "has lied to women and he has lied to workers. And those lies have consequences. They have hurt Wisconsin's women, families and workers... When women do better, the economy does better. When the economy does better, women do better. Women and workers are in this together, literally."

None of the Republican candidates are even remotely acceptable on women's issues. And a few days ago, 3 George W. Bush-appointed judges backed up GOP tactics for closing women's clinics and thwarting pro-Choice rulings that go back to Roe v Wade, a ruling that came 5 years after Phillip Morris started running those Virginia Slims commercials!

In 1977 Barbara Mikulski was elected to Congress from Maryland and then ten years later she won a statewide seat for the Senate. When she retires next year, one of the most powerful voices on behalf of women and issues crucial to women and families will disappear from the Senate.

Blue America would like to make sure a voice just as compelling and just as powerful takes that seat-- and the candidate has already been tested-- Rep. Donna Edwards, Maryland's most progressive and most outspoken political leader and chair of the House Democrats' Women's Caucus. 

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We asked Donna if women's issues still need to be watched over so carefully in 2015. Haven't we gotten beyond the outmoded, conservative mentality that places women in an inferior position to men, instead of one based on achievement and equality. 

"It's startling to see the lack of voices of women and mothers-- especially those of color-- represented in Washington," she told us. Donna:

As a single mother who raised a black son on her own, I worry deeply about the issues of race, education, economic opportunity, and justice that impact all our communities. And as a woman, I worry about issues like equal pay for equal work, the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade being chipped away by Tea Party Republicans, and childcare costs that are crippling far too many families. 

We need to have serious discussions about our communities all across our country-- especially those that have been historically overlooked or feel left behind. Communities where there are not enough jobs. Where young people feel a sense of hopelessness because they lack economic opportunities. And where people feel like they don't have allies in the fight for progress. 

Here's the thing-- we can make a difference. These issues could be addressed head on by ensuring more mothers, more women of color, and more women of diverse economic backgrounds are in seats of power. That's why this fight is so important.

And that's why Blue America has endorsed Donna, once again, and why we're asking you today to consider contributing to her grassroots campaign, where she faces a gaggle of less progressive men.



Making Marijuana Legalization Part Of The Progressive Agenda

With Your Help, Heather Mizeur Can Be the Best Governor Ever

Last summer, Blue America first endorsed Heather Mizeur for Governor of Maryland. If she wins, Heather would be the first woman governor of Maryland and the first openly gay governor in the country. But as she says, she’s not running to make history, she’s running to make a difference. And over the past several weeks, we've been noticing that her campaign has been living up to the progressive dream we knew her candidacy would be.

In Maryland, the gubernatorial candidates pick their lieutenant governor before the primary, and Heather wasn’t afraid to make a bold choice-- she now has a progressive change agent by her side. His name is Delman Coates, an African-American pastor who runs an 8,000 member church. But he’s not your typical reverend. He played a significant role in the 2012 campaign for marriage equality in Maryland, speaking at rallies and appearing on TV ads. His works stretches to several social justice issues, including common sense gun reform, immigration reform, health care, and voting rights, and has been recognized by the ACLU.

Heather released her 10-point jobs plan and it reads like a progressive wish list. She proposed a millionaire’s tax, with the revenue going to income tax cuts for 90 percent of Marylanders. She wants to turn Maryland’s minimum wage into a living wage-- $16.70 by 2022, with sizable increases along the way. She even wants to close corporate tax loopholes and use the money to give small business tax rebates. And her plan also includes paid sick days for all workers, more funding for job training and adult education, and the building of major transit projects, schools, and bridges.

Most recently, Heather has called for marijuana legalization, drawing a clear line of distinction between her and her establishment opponents. While there is now sizable public support for legalizing marijuana, our politicians haven’t caught up. But Heather took the bold step of not only supporting it, but also pledging to make it a gubernatorial priority when she gets elected. And what would she fund with the $157 million in annual tax revenue? Universal pre-k.

This is why Blue America was so excited to endorse her candidacy during the summer. With our help, Heather will be one of the next great leaders of the progressive movement. Can you imagine what Maryland would be like with a progressive income tax system, a $16.70 an hour minimum wage, paid sick days, universal pre-k, and legalized marijuana?

You can donate to her campaign on our Blue America page for gubernatorial candidates.

In the past, Heather has told us she wasn’t interested in business as usual at the Maryland State House, and that she wasn’t willing to settle for the status quo. "Whether it’s a $16.70 an hour minimum wage or progressive tax reform," she explained, "my campaign is about putting people over conventional politics. It’s about returning Annapolis to the people of Maryland, and taking it back from the special interests and party leaders." We asked her about her very bold marijuana initiative last week.

My proposal to legalize marijuana in Maryland comes from these values. Maryland had the third most marijuana possession arrests proportionally of all states-- over 23,000. It’s easy to see that this system is not working. By legalizing marijuana we will save tens of thousands of people from unnecessary run-ins with law enforcement, imprisonment, or worse.

Marijuana's time as an illegal substance has run its course. Marijuana laws ruin lives, are enforced with racial bias, and distract law enforcement from serious and violent crimes. Our criminal justice system should keep people safe, treat them fairly, and use limited fiscal resources wisely. Legalizing marijuana is the first step to ensuring that happens.

Marijuana criminalization costs our state $281.7 million every year without making us any safer. A Maryland with legalized, regulated, and taxed marijuana will mean safer communities and fewer citizens unnecessarily exposed to our criminal justice system.

It will also provide Maryland with a dedicated revenue stream to make overdue and critical investments in early childhood education. The new annual revenue will provide 23,625 children with a full day of prekindergarten. Our plan will help ensure that prekindergarten is available to all children in our state.

This campaign is not just about me-- it’s about what we can do when we all come together. The election won’t be won by special interests, lobbyists, or backroom deals in Annapolis. It comes down to which candidate’s vision creates a large enough movement of people to win on Election Day and then lift our communities up when we govern.

You'll find comprehensive plans for all of her proposals on her website.

If you believe in this kind of progressive vision, please consider making a small contribution to help her turn these plans into real results for Maryland’s families-- and to help her set an example for what governors can do across the country.

Thank you!

We are all in this together,
Howie, for Digby, John, and the Blue America team



C&L Welcomes Blogger Judd Legum, Running For The Maryland General Assembly

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Judd was one of the first bloggers whose work I admired when I discovered there were actually other political bloggers. A few weeks ago he told me he had decided to run for the Maryland state legislature and John and I asked him to come by and tell everyone about his race. Please join us in the comments section to take part in the live discussion. Here's a little background material on Judd, who is seeking to replace a far right freshman misanthrope, Ron George, and take the values he learned as a progressive blogger-- accountability, transparency and inclusiveness-- and bring them into state government in Maryland.

Born and raised in Annapolis, Judd is an attorney who graduated Cum laude from Georgetown University and then worked for 3 years at the top progressive think tank, Center for American Progress. He helped create their blog, Think Progress, and now blogs at his own Maryland blog, Legum's New Line. Last year he worked as Hillary Clinton's national research director and helped prepare her for over 20 debates.

Judd is seeking to represent the district he grew up in and to replace one of the most right-wing extremists in the General Assembly. Ron George was a sponsor of "Maryland's Marriage Protection Act," a state constitutional amendment that's widely viewed as Maryland's version of Proposition 8. The bill would not only write discrimination against gays and lesbians into the Maryland constitution, it would "affect the ability of the State and local governments to extend benefits to partners of the same sex," such as hospital visitation rights. He also sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, regardless of circumstance and, although he campaigned on a pledge to work for a clean environment, he received a score of 33% from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.

Judd's agenda is all clean, clean, clean:

Clean government: He's not accepting money from Maryland lobbyists or corporate PACs.

Clean Bay: The 25-year, multi-billion dollar effort to restore the Bay has been a failure. "If we don't act quickly," said Judd, "the Bay will soon pass the point of no return. This means standing up to powerful special interests such as agribusiness, which remains the number one source of pollution in the Bay. This is more than an environmental issue, it's an economic issue. Much of Maryland's economy is dependent upon the health of the Bay."

Clean Energy: Judd has been telling voters that the state faces an energy crisis. "Absent policy changes the state will face rolling blackouts starting in 2011. Marylanders have also seen their energy bills skyrocket. We need to move aggressively on three fronts: 1) energy efficiency programs, which can reduce the need for new generation and reduce costs for consumers, 2) investment in transmission which will allow more power to flow into the state at reduced costs. 3) new sources of clean energy including wind, solar and biofuels."

He'll be running a grassroots campaign and we promised to help make sure the netroots is aware of his race. If you can handle it, please consider making a donation at his ActBlue page. Now, join us in the comments section.




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